Monday, October 11, 2010

Backside to the Wind: Tonelagee and Turlough Hill

The Wicklow Mountains

Sunday, 26th September, 2010
Staring and Finishing Point: Wicklow Gap

Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Marilyn

Height: 817 metres
Dillon Count: 42

Stoney Top (Minor summit)
Height: 714 metres

Turlough Hill
Classification: Dillon
Height: 681 metres
Dillon Count: 43

Wicklow is wonderfully scenic in places but I find it hard to get excited about hiking the mountains there. We took a scenic drive to Wicklow Gap where there is plenty of parking but it does tend to fill up quickly at the weekend.

The walk up to Tonelagee is initially through dense heather but the going gets easier as height is gained and the ground gets rockier. It was only on the way down that we discovered a path which was over some very eroded and boggy ground. The summit of Tonelagee is pretty non-descript but offers a good viewing point across to the reservoir on Turlough Hill. Given the translation of the mountain's name (backside to the wind), we were pretty lucky to get the seemingly unusually calm conditions at the summit trig pillar.

Tóin le Gaoith
View from the summit of Tonelagee

The minor summit of Stoney Top is only a short walk from Tonelagee. Stoney Top is another unremarkable summit but the walk across provides a great vantage point down onto the heart-shaped and spectactular Lough Owler. It also crosses a unusual and desolate piece of ground covered in dark bog and gleaming rocks, the whole scene is quite other-worldly.

Bog Crossing
Crossing the bog towards Stoney Top

Having made our way back to the car-park for a bit of lunch, we took the lazy way up Turlough Hill following the meandering access road as it wound it's way to the top of the mountain. The road offers superb views across to the bulk of Tonelagee. Turlough Hill itself provides the location for Ireland's only pumped-storage hydroelectricity plant which was built between 1968 and 1974.At the time of completion, it was the largest civil engineering project ever carried out in Ireland. The upper reservoir completely dominates the top of the mountain. Indeed it more resembles an abandoned building site with long-since dried lumps of concrete lying on the ground amongst scattered rocks and pieces of wood.

Tonelagee & the Wicklow Gap
View of Tonelagee from the access road

For the purist, there really isn't a lot to recommend and the mountain lacks any real distinct summit. Make your way towards the quarry from which the stone to build up the reservoir was presumably drawn and pick out the highest point.

Turlough Hill & Camaderry
Reservoir on Turlough Hill

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